In a year like no other for a century, Dr Zuleyha Keskin (pictured),Senior Lecture and course director in the Charles Sturt Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, reflects on the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’, known as Eid al-Fitr, as Ramadan in 2020 concludes at sundown on Saturday 23 May.
The excitement around the Eid al-Fitr celebration which concludes Ramadan is felt around the globe by the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide; after all, Ramadan is a spiritual but intensive month.
Abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset for 30 days of Ramadan as well as undertaking extra worship creates a spiritual boost and focus, which is cherished.
As the fasting days continue, there is an increasing appreciation for the sustenance that is so often taken for granted.
Empathy for those who are less fortunate naturally increases among those who are fasting, since fasting also means ‘going without’ for a period of time; this leads to donations becoming an imperative part of Ramadan.
Then there is the pride felt with the self-discipline demonstrated through the fasting, giving one confidence that such self-discipline can be applied in all facets of one’s life.
Towards the end of Ramadan, there is a sense of achievement felt at the completion of fasting for a whole month which is celebrated through Eid al-Fitr, also known as ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’.
Normally, just as Ramadan is a social month where many meals are shared with family and friends, Eid al-Fitr is also a social occasion.
The morning of the celebratory day would start with everyone dressing in their newly-purchased eid outfits which they would wear to the mosque for the eid prayer.
If there is a time of the year when the mosques are overflowing, it is for the eid prayers where the mosques cannot cater for the number of people attending, so the congregation flows onto the streets to perform the prayer.
The eid prayer at the mosque would be followed by breakfast with family at home after which the visits would commence.
The young would visit the elderly, while the elderly would offer gifts to the young.
The graveyards would be a common place to visit, in order to not forget loved ones who cannot be there for the special day.
This social and celebratory atmosphere would continue for a number of days.
This Eid al-Fitr will be very different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions; it is the first of its kind in everyone’s lifetime.
There will be no eid prayer at the mosques as all mosques will be closed.
Visiting family and friends will be extremely limited. Many will choose not to visit anyone, including family, so as not to put others’ health at risk through the potential spread of COVID-19.
However, if I have learnt one thing from Ramadan, it is that human beings are resilient, adaptable and highly creative in finding alternative ways to connect and celebrate.
While the doors to the mosques were locked during Ramadan this year, many online opportunities were unlocked.
There were virtual iftars (breaking of the fast dinners), online sermons, and so many other virtual connections taking place in order to achieve the communal feel during a month which usually has a social aspect to it.
Eid al-Fitr will no doubt follow the same trajectory.
Virtual eid gatherings will be organised and many other creative and innovative ways to connect on such a special occasion will be developed.The celebratory feel of Eid al-Fitr will be felt in one way or another.